Outside the Bubble: Encouraging Students to Develop Their Own Dance Community

IMAGE social media logos IMAGE

Photo by SocialmediaVA

Nowadays, social media is a way of life and a way of interacting in a community. Online communities provide a sense of identity, belonging, and opportunities that don’t exist in traditional communities the way they once did.

Personally speaking, I find it easier to find like-minded colleagues online than in my own neighborhood. Here, I am one of a minority group of dance artists that may or may not share the same expectations, aesthetics, approaches, and standards. However, communicating online has led to relationships, brainstorming networks, and opportunities that have benefited my work in my actual community.

Why shouldn’t it be the same for kids?

Developing a community of dancers within any classroom depends on multiple dynamics and sometimes thinking outside the room can nurture relationships inside.

Facebook, Twitter, and fan sites can spur students to follow and interact with their favorite dance artists in ways they may never have a physical opportunity to do. Tracking the commentary and posts of these same artists can lead to a developed sense of trust in the teachings you offer in the classroom. It also opens the door for you to discuss modes of communication, etiquette, and networking.

I always appreciate when a guest artist shares the same information I do but in a new way. With tools like Facebook and Twitter, now the reinforcement of my “truth” can come when I need it and not just when I have someone in house.

In the classroom:

As the instructor, establish a professional account for Facebook or Twitter, and use this account to interact with artists on behalf of the class. In this way, you could follow artists whose work is relevant to your class studies. As the responsible adult, you may contact this artist and inquire if they would be willing to set some time aside to “talk” to your class in an interview type format. This could be done in a real-time chat or in an email exchange.
What to do:

  • Survey the class for questions ahead of time.
  • Discuss which questions would be important for basic information and which might the artist be excited to answer.
  • Create a final list of inquiries.
  • Invite students to pose potential answers based on research they conduct on the artist.
  • Conduct the interview.
  • Compare what they expected to learn to what they actually learned about this artist.

On their own:

Thinking of kids exploring the internet unsupervised is, well, scary but there are distinct benefits.  Students can start to interact with other dance enthusiasts, including some their own age. Soon they will establish their own group of dance colleagues that can offer support in ways their actual friends may not.
Consider the following in keeping kids safe and engaged:

  • Explain to your students the etiquette and risks of interacting online and emphasize that an agreement should be reached with their parents before starting this line of activity on their own time. Parents can help monitor conversations to assure not only appropriate communication, but also thoughtful and productive questioning.
  • Discuss the appropriate way to get an adult’s attention in real life and how it relates to online engagement.
  • Emphasize mannered lines of discourse- using please and thank you, a respectful tone, and knowing when enough is enough.

Establishing Boundaries:

Just as we want students to demonstrate appropriate behavior, it is important to remember that adults need to do the same. Sometimes we can get so involved with our students that the lines between personal and professional lives can start to blur.

Remember your role. You are a teacher, a role model, and a source of information.

Just as it is important for the conversations you and your students to have with artists be professional, the same goes for you and your students. Ethically, it is important to draw clear boundaries between personal and professional relationships.

  • Online this means not “friending” or “following” from personal accounts for students, and maybe even their families.
  • Even from your professional pages or accounts, keep the posts content driven. Keep your comments informational and away from personal opinions that could offend or be misinterpreted.
  • Be cautious of online relationships with colleagues. They may not share the same ethical standards on social media boundaries and this can confuse the lines you have established with students and their families.


In an age where bullying can reach beyond demanding lunch money and name-calling, teaching to positively participate in varying modes of communication must also be addressed. In many instances, the dynamics of the relationships with friends, frenemies, and others at school does not remain on school premises and is greatly fed by online communication after school hours.

One reaction is to discourage kids from engaging in social media but another would be to use it to reach beyond their current circle, hence finding other kids with similar interests, situations, and goals.

When introducing your students to the positive sides of online involvement, address the negative sides too.

How do you expand the bubble?

Do You Blog About Dance? Be One of the Top 20 of 2011

It’s Time!

At the close of 2010, because everyone BUT the dance community seemed to be making a Best Dance Blog list, Dance Advantage decided to try something new:

IMAGE Top Dance Blogs 2011 Logo IMAGEOur own award contest, where real dance blog readers pick their favorites.

The Top Dance Blog contest was a great success so we’re bringing it back this year and we want YOU to participate!

Here’s how:

If you have a blog and roughly more than 70% of your posts revolve around DANCE (any form or genre), you are eligible to participate.

First, decide which of the following categories is the best fit for your blog:
  • Dancer Musings (Career/College/Professional) – Pros or pros-to-be discuss the dance lifestyle
  • Teen Dancer – 18 years and under
  • Adult Dancer – 19 years and up
  • Teacher Talk (Education/Training/Instruction) – Dance class topics for or by teachers
  • Speaking Dance (Dance Writing/Criticism/Audience Education) – Covering the dance world for audiences
  • Dance Organization/Artist – Companies or choreographers talk performance, process, production
  • Business Blog – Content for the community by dance-related businesses
  • Collaborative – Magazine style blogs that are multi-author and have a diverse focus

I know that you have a unique voice in the dance blogosphere, but I hope you’ll find your best match among these categories. You must choose only ONE category.

The first 5 categories will be single-focus blogs (written to discuss one topic) and in general, will be personal blogs. If you publish primarily audience-focused articles/reviews, your best category is Speaking Dance, no matter how many authors contribute.

The final categories listed are more likely to have multiple writers. The best fit for most dance school or studio blogs will probably be the Business Blog category, though some academies may also consider the Organization/Artist classification if the blog focuses primarily on a student performance company. The Collaborative Blog category would suit any blog that has more than one author AND does not fit neatly into any single category.

Next, each blogger or blog owner must enter their own blog into the competition by publishing a blog post about the contest.

In YOUR post, ask readers to show support of YOUR blog with a comment on YOUR post.

That’s important, so I’ll repeat it…

In YOUR post, ask readers to show support of YOUR blog with a comment on YOUR post.

You have until Tuesday, December 20 to round up as much comment support as you can.

Finally, let me know you’ve thrown your hat in the ring.

Comment on this blog post (the one you’re reading now) and tell me…

  1. Which category you are entering under.
  2. The permalink to your blog post about the contest.
How to get to the next round:

Though any blog can enter, only blog posts with the most comments will be finalists in the voting round.

Comment support will be compared in all participating blogs. The TWENTY with the most support will qualify to compete for the Top Dance Blog of 2011 title.

The blogs in each category that receive the most comments will also be eligible to compete for the top spot in their classification. So, even if you do not make the Top 20, there is a chance you could still win your category.

Again, you need reader engagement to be a finalist. As soon as you publish your post start promoting it and encouraging comments!

How to win:

On December 27th I will open the polls for our Top 20 and for each category. I will also post a ‘Thank You’ list of all participating blogs (with links).

Voting for the top slots will take place December 27 – 30.

During this period, if you are a finalist, you’ll want to send as many people as possible to vote in our polls and secure your ranking.

Readers’ votes will be tallied and the results posted during the first weeks of the new year.

IMAGE Top Dance Blog Contest logo IMAGESome DOs, DON’Ts, and a PLEASE

In the post on YOUR blog about the Top Dance Blogs of 2011 competition:

DO add our contest logo. (Click on any logo image for the URL, or Right-click/Save-as)

DO make it clear to readers that they should show their support by commenting on YOUR post about the competition (not mine).

DO encourage your commenters to share why they read your blog, what makes it special, or which are their favorite posts.

DON’T be sneaky about comments. I expect that all participants will behave honorably, monitoring and deleting any duplicate comments from readers. Offering incentives to commenters and/or padding your comment count in any way will disqualify your blog.

DON’T mention competing blogs (positively or negatively). Keep your post about you.

PLEASE link back to this post. Here’s the URL: http://danceadvantage.net/2011/11/29/top-blog-2011/. Dance Advantage thanks you!


Will Dance Advantage compete too?

Nope, we’re just hosting this shindig. If Dance Advantage is your favorite dance blog, SHARE news of the contest on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc AND encourage your favorite dance blogs to participate.

As a blogger, can I comment in support of my favorite blogs if I have entered my own blog?

Yes! Please do.

As a reader, can I comment in support of more than one dance blog?

You sure can – ALL of your favorites.

As a reader, will I be able to VOTE for more than one blog finalist?

One vote per category, and only one blog out of the Top 20.

As a blogger, if I don’t make it to the finalist round, can I encourage my readers to vote for blogs that have?

Absolutely! I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

If I was a finalist/winner last year, can I participate and/or win this year?

Yes, yes, and yes. This is only our 2nd contest so, as yet, we have no limit on the number of terms a blog might win in succession.

I have a small blog with only a few readers. Why should I enter?

This is an excellent opportunity for you to engage the readers you DO have and find out why they keep coming back. Even if there are only 5 people who read and comment and no matter your chances for qualifying in the Top 20, this is valuable. You’ll enter 2012 with encouragement to keep blogging! Not to mention, some quality links from our blog to yours.

AND, if that weren’t enough, this year we’re also selecting one blog for an Editor’s Choice award. This blog will be treated much like a category award winner and will go to a blog Nichelle feels is noteworthy or up and coming, regardless of comment count or readership.

What do I get if I’m a Top Dance Blog winner?

  1. See above. (We want every blog to be noted and have an opportunity to engage their readers. It’s why we’ve created a contest with two rounds.)
  2. You’ll receive a badge for your website to display and leverage your ranking.
  3. Category winners will be featured together in an upcoming article on Dance Advantage and the overall Top 20 winner will receive their own dedicated feature.
  4.  You’ll have the satisfaction of being chosen by actual dance readers as a Top Dance Blog.

What does Dance Advantage get out of it?

I get linked to by participants, reach new types of readers, and thereby grow my audience. Plus, I get to be a connector – introducing readers to new blogs that suit their interests.

I also get to help fellow blogs, which by their nature, depend on each other to grow and survive. Though this is a competition, I believe it is a positive and friendly way to build a stronger sense of community and show that dance blogs occupy a significant, healthy, and thriving corner of the online dance community.

What didn’t I answer? Feel free to comment below or contact me with your question.

Dance/USA comes to Chicago!

IMAGE Logo for Dance/USA 2011 Annual Conference in Chicago IMAGEI’ll be honest, I had never heard of Dance/USA (a national service organization for professional dance) until the social media started buzzing in January about their annual conference coming to Chicago.  Maybe this is because the member companies and venues are on a much larger scale (and budget) than me.

Then again, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

Thinking, talking, and networking on the national level as a dance community seems a bit lofty to me (the majority of the people I talked to were either from Chicago or Philadelphia, where one of three main branches of Dance/USA resides), but one thing that was made really clear to me by attending a day at the conference was that many of the problems that I see facing the dance world are not specific to Chicago – they are ubiquitous to the dance field as a whole.

The theme of this year’s conference was the rather verbose: Design it. Dance it. Be the architect of your future.  Held at the beautiful Hyatt Regency McCormick Place – just south of the heart of my city – Dance/USA’s conference (much like any other professional conference) consisted of key-note speakers, forums, and area-specific lectures.

The attendees (primarily artistic directors, presenters, executive directors and journalists, with a gaggle of choreographers and dancers as well) could pick an area of focus between artist, management, and education-based topics.  I went for the second day of the conference on scholarship primarily functioning as an independent artist, though I never able to completely let go of my other professional affiliations as an administrator at the Menomonee Club and columnist right here at Dance Advantage when hobnobbing with “the community”.

Take aways from the conference

In spite of its forward-thinking theme, the opening speech from Pico Iyer was decidedly reflective, and, at times, only vaguely related to dance.  The discussion that followed was primarily focused on the idea of “stillness”[Read more…]

What Do They Mean By ‘Contemporary’ On SYTYCD?

What is contemporary dance?

How is it different from modern dance, or jazz dance?
IMAGE Nicola Ayoub reaches a flexed foot in the air with clasped hands. IMAGE

Nicola Ayoub - Fete de la Danse 2010 | Photo by pixieduc.

Good questions that get asked a lot! And not just by newcomers to dance.

It seems the entire dance community is trying to sort it all out…

  • Four months ago, I got an e-mail from a reader who e-mailed me wondering if I had written anything on the topic. Seems she had been to some workshops and asked around, hoping for some clarification on the term. She came up empty.
  • Our new columnist, Heather Vaughan-Southard recently called describing contemporary dance ‘The Next Verbal Challenge‘ on her EducatingDancers blog.
  • And that was expounding on a conversation happening on Twitter (in 140 characters) and mentioned by Jordon Cloud on her blog about the differences between contemporary and modern dance.
  • And fellow dance writer and Houstonian, Nancy Wozny, penned The Contemporary Conundrum for Dance Spirit Magazine. It’s not a new article but the questions sure are familiar.

The point is, this is an ongoing conversation. I’m sure none of us were the first and we are obviously not the last thinking, processing, and scribbling about it.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: More scribblings

I’ll add more interesting articles as I find them.

I’ve been sitting on this post really, picking at it until I felt like I’d nailed it. Problem is, it refuses to be nailed. The subject really should be (and probably is) somebody’s Master’s thesis.

BUT it deserves to be talked about among undergrads and younger students as well. Students need to hear the perspectives and some of the history and experiences behind them.

And so I throw my thoughts into the fray. A scholar I am not, but let’s see where they go and what you do with them, shall we?

I’ll start with my Bottom Line first…

(you’ll forgive the language, I hope)

Labels suck but we kind of need them.

Can ‘contemporary’ be taught? [Read more…]